John the Baptist Prepares the Way (Mark 1:1-8)

Here is my translation of the beginning of Mark’s Gospel:

Here begins the story of Jesus, the Messiah, the Child of Humanity.


Long ago, prophets said:



I send my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

He will be the voice

of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of God,

making God’s paths straight.’”


John baptized in the wilderness, preaching that baptism is a sign of rearranged priorities. People from throughout the land of Judea, and people from Jerusalem, were baptized by John in the River Jordan, confessing their shortcomings.


John clothed himself in camel’s hair and wore a belt of leather; he ate locusts and wild honey. John preached this: “One who is stronger than I will be coming after me, someone whose shoelace I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”



The Gospel According to Mark is the earliest snapshot we have of the Jesus who would be given the title “Christ” (the Greek term) or “Messiah,” meaning “anointed one” in Hebrew. Most scholars believe that Mark’s gospel was written in the 60’s of the Common Era, some thirty years after the events described.


Mark does not begin with the Christmas story. It is important to note that the two Gospels that do include Christmas stories, Matthew and Luke, tell very different tales. From this evidence, it appears that earliest Christianity did not include a birth story but rather began with a good, old-fashioned-style prophet, John. This way of beginning emphasizes the prophetic continuity of Jesus’ actions in the larger Hebraic tradition.


In Mark’s version, Jesus will appear for public ministry in a public profession, following John’s riverside cleansing ceremonies.  As mentioned above, instead of using the word “sins” for what people confessed, I have used “shortcomings.” Mark goes on to show “sin” as a life lived in illusion and delusion, outside of the Kingdom—or Reign—of God.


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